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Welcome, today we are talking with Sara Goff! I would like to thank you for taking time out of your busy writing schedule to answer a few questions.

First, I think it’s important for readers to get a little insight on an author that they don’t necessarily get from your professional bio. You’d be surprised at what readers connect to, and sometimes the simplest ‘I can relate to that’ grabs their interest where nothing else can. Don’t answer anything you feel uncomfortable with.

Can you share a little something about Sara Goff that’s not mentioned in your bio on your website?

Hi, and thanks for the welcome. I’m excited to be here! Yes, I wasn’t able to fit all of me into my bio. So here’s something I left out. When I was in kindergarten at Blessed Sacrament School in Johnson City, New York, I fell in love with a little French girl who joined my class for part of the year. Her name was Claire, and all I can remember about her is that she was French. Meeting her was like discovering star fruit. When my family later got a Siamese cat, I named it Claire.

Hmm. Do you think that experience had anything to do with me marrying a foreigner? Jonas is Swedish.

I see that you’re the founder of the nonprofit organization Lift the Lid, which helps struggling schools. That must be very rewarding! What prompted you to want to do something like that?

I believe most writers seek meaning in their lives. We’re thinking about our characters’ lives and what they want, always working toward a happy ending . . . it’s bound to make you look more closely at your own life, for better or for worse.

I’ve also loved reading since I was a young girl and have been inspired by the charitable spirit of Jo in Little Women, for example, who also happens to be a writer. The Anne of Green Gables series was my obsession when I was eleven or twelve . . . where the old couple Matthew and Marilla Cuthbert adopt an orphan boy to help with their farm, but when shy Matthew arrives at the train station to pick him up, he finds a girl named Anne with brilliant red hair! I loved it. And, you know, before I found out I was pregnant with my first son Lucas, hubby Jonas and I were well into the process of adopting a child from Kenya.

There’s something else that prompted me to start Lift the Lid, a nonprofit that supports underprivileged schools and encourages the students to express themselves through writing. My father, who passed away in 2000 from pancreatic cancer, used to sponsor children through a Catholic charity, and he gave me the responsibility of writing to them. Many wrote back! Yes, that would be a direct link.

How do you balance being a housewife, the mother of two small children, the time you spend as founder of Lift the Lid, and writing?

First of all, I wouldn’t call my routine “balanced.” Even claiming to have a routine is stretching it. I aim for two or three hours of writing/marketing time a day with a 30 to 45 minute workout. The rest goes to the boys. I’m normally up to one in the morning working on the charity.

Do we dare look at a recent day? We’re in South Beach, Miami, at the moment, taking some down time after our move from London to NYC. My Lift the Lid website is also taking some down time after I installed a new version of WordPress. Not good. A donor calls, wondering why she can’t get into the site, while Lucas (six) and Axel (17 months) impatiently wait for me to take them to the beach. This isn’t life-altering stuff and we feel real lucky to be in sunny Florida, but . . . Give me five minutes, I tell the boys, knowing their brains are interpreting that as they’ll never get to the beach.

My computer guy is in Greece of all places. (He used to live in London, where I used to live.) Now there’s this annoying five-hour time difference, and I’m hoping he’ll tell me he can save the past five years I’ve put into building the site before it’s too late in the day his time. So I fire off an email to him, and it’s right at the moment when Greece’s fate is teetering on the verdict of a bailout plan. He’s undoubtedly worried about his bank account, which he has limited access to . . . but I have ZERO access to Lift the Lid and need tech support! Lucas, please stop nagging. Pia pup barks. She needs a wee before anything else can happen.

Where’s Papa Jonas in all of this? Peru? The Middle East? France? His job entails leaving us to sort out the day to day, making his return on the weekends party time. Papa’s home!! But he’s not here now. I press send on my panic email: HELP! Over 75 students’ essays and poems . . . impassioned testimony . . . detailed reports on all our projects . . . GONE! Then I douse the boys in sunscreen, take Pia pup out to fertilize the palm trees, and we all go for some fun on the beach. That’s how I balance it.

What are your favorite animal, food, movie, TV show, actor, singer, and author?

Ha! Much easier questions. My favorite animal is the horse. My parents divorced when I was eight, and my mother moved to a small hundred-year-old house in the country. Ticking off her bucket list, she bought a horse, an Arabian named Yazy. She (our horse) was skittish and quick to brake into a canter, so I fell off her countless times. But I loved her.

My favorite food is anything organic, spicy, gluten free, or dairy. I eat yogurt, a banana, and raw almonds every day.

Movies. I like films that stick with me, that make me think and shake me up. The Shawshank Redemption. A 1995 film called Bad Boys starring Will Smith. The Usual Suspects. Life of Pi, to name a few.

I don’t watch much TV. If I hear a lot of hype about a show, like Sex and the City and Girls, I’ll watch an episode or two, but I get bored easily and don’t have the time. The one series I’ve watched the most is Homeland. It’s hard to get bored watching that one!

My favorite actors are Edward Norton because he’s convincing and Padme Amidala because she did a great princess who wanted to play an elephant on Sesame Street.

I love music so I have a mix of favorite singers and bands. Here’s a few in no particular order: Kylie Minogue, Kate Bush, Daft Punk, Chemical Brothers, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Empire of the Sun, Dave Matthews, Steve Miller, Guns n’ Roses, Crosby, Stills & Nash, George Gershwin, Bing Crosby, Tchaikovsky, Boys of King’s College, Cambridge . . .

Earnest Hemingway is my favorite author. He’s an icon of WWI expatriate writers and the Lost Generation, a phrase that he helped to popularize. He’s been criticized for being misogynist, but I saw him as portraying strong women at a time when they were experiencing new freedoms, responsibilities, and respect in society. It is his writing style--succinct, subtle, and yet rich in tone and meaning--that draws me to his books.

What are your pet peeves?

Our dog Pia has a special skill: She follows us everywhere. She doesn’t like water, but if I were to run into the crashing waves of the ocean, she’d follow me. She’s a loyal, intelligent, disciplined dog, which is why I have no problem walking her without a leash, even in Manhattan. Pia has followed at our heels on the high streets of London, through mossy woods in Sweden, and along cobbled lanes in France, enjoying new sights and smells and of course her freedom limited to our shadow.

The noisy, populated sidewalks in Manhattan pose no challenge for Pia, other than every time we step out someone has to comment. Normally it’s along the lines of, “What an amazing dog!” Or, “How’d you get your dog to do that?” But I also get the New Yorkers who feel they have to tell me how to care for my dog. “You should keep your dog on a leash! What if she chases after a bird?” She doesn’t care for birds. “What if she sees another dog across the street?” She sees herself as above other dogs (because she doesn’t need a leash) and avoids them. “Some people are afraid of dogs!” She’s small and couldn’t harm someone if she tried.

I love New York City for being expressive and ‘in your face.’ Everyone feels entitled to have a voice and use it. That’s how it should be worldwide! I just wish they would mind their own business. J

Who is your hero?

My heroes are the students we work with through Lift the Lid. The children and young adults who overcome life-threatening obstacles in order to find their voice, achieve an education, and surmount their greatest hurdle: poverty. They dream of a better life, earning the power and respect to obliterate the injustices they face.

It’s a long road, yes, but they’ll look back and know they’re heroes.

Give us one thing on your bucket list.

Top on my bucket list is to travel with my boys to Kenya to visit the schools we sponsor through Lift the Lid.

What would readers find surprising about you?

I wanted to audition as a mermaid swimming in a giant fish tank behind a bar in a Manhattan nightclub. (I was in my twenties and looking for a creative job.) They weren’t hiring.

If you could go to heaven, who would you visit?

I would visit my father and curl up on his lap like I used to do as a young girl on Sunday mornings while he read the newspaper.

Any bad habits?

My bad habit goes back to how I ‘balance’ work and family; that is, sacrificing sleep. I’ve never needed a lot of rest, but four or five hours night after night isn’t enough.

What’s the funniest thing that ever happened to you?

Oh, jeepers. Whitewater rafting with my husband in Costa Rica. We did a Level Four excursion (out of five levels), and I had never tried the sport before. I clung to the slippery wet raft as strong men and women twice my size were propelled into the rapids like popped corn. Jagged rocks broke through the frothing water and waterfalls pounded the river with enough force to break skin, if you found yourself beneath it. Not me! I got down with my back flat against the bottom of the raft, until I heard our captain call my position to start paddling. NOW! I scrambled up with my oar in hand and paddled madly, fulfilling my duty to our tour, before throwing myself back down for safety.

Hubby Jonas, seated in front of me, glanced over his shoulder and saw me trying to meld with the bottom of the raft. “I paddled!” I yelled above the din of rushing water, expletives, and our captain bellowing commands. The chaos around me went silent, like a hearty laugh without sound, as a smile swept across Jonas’s face. A sharp dip in the rapids and we were back in survival mode. I knew if I made to the end of the course, I’d never live down the moment he caught me laid out like a trapped fish. Hey, at least I didn’t fall out!

Now that our readers know a little bit more about Sara Goff, let’s get down to the business of your debut novel, I Always Cry at Weddings, which comes out on September 15th of this year.  

  • How long did it take you from beginning to end before your novel was completely finished, and how did you decide on the topic and title?

 It took me over a decade to write and publish I Always Cry at Weddings. Early on, I had a top agent in the mainstream market, Bill Contardi, who had a vision for the story, which didn’t end up working at the time. I queried the Christian market and another great agent, Wendy Lawton, took on the book. But her vision for it didn’t work, either. Finally, I went with my own vision and found a publisher. I learned a lot about writing from both agents and consider my time spent with them necessary to getting the story to where it is today. Writing takes its time, that’s for sure.

Between each rewrite of I Always Cry at Weddings, I set it down for a few months in order to approach it with a fresh perspective. But I didn’t stop writing. I started a second novel, which is three-quarters completed. As for the title and subject, I’ll leave you in suspense. J

  • Was there any special reason that you based your story in New York?

I love New York City. It’s a character in itself. If you know it and have lived it, how can you not write about it? For me, the desire to capture its restless energy, its brilliance, and its shadows on paper was too strong to ignore.

  • Please tell us a little bit about I Always Cry at Weddings.

I Always Cry at Weddings is about a woman who finds out who she is and what she wants in Manhattan, while simultaneously discovering what it means to be unconditionally loved. Ava Larson is a flawed leading character in that she makes wrong decisions and has to hit bottom before she can pick herself up, but we love her because she learns from each of her mistakes and she never stops trying for a meaningful career and a healthy relationship.

The story is also about homelessness. I was an instructor at a writing workshop for the homeless through Holy Apostles Soup Kitchen. The workshop was founded in 1994 by author Ian Frazier. I heard a lot of life stories that expanded my understanding of homelessness. The men and woman you would never know are homeless, who are working to get out of poverty, struck me the most and inspired the leading male character, Chris. He’s homeless, but he’s got a system and he’s got a plan, and throughout much of the story, his life is more stable than Ava’s. She never expected a homeless man to become her muse, but then she never expected to lose everything, either.

  • Do you cry at weddings?

I don’t and I’m starting to feel guilty about it! My little sister is getting married this fall and I’m giving a speech at the reception. It will be my true test . . . TBA. 

  • What was your hardest challenge writing this book?

At first it was finding the right tone, but once I had children it became finding the time!

  • What in your opinion makes good chemistry between your leading characters?

Friendship and respect!

  • I love the cover for I Always Cry at Weddings, who designed it for you?

Roseanna White, Senior Editor at WhiteFire Publishing. She wears many hats in the industry, including that of an author, and is incredibly talented. I feel so fortunate to be a part of her team.

  • Any other works in progress?

I’ve nearly completed my second novel, but I’m leaving it a secret for now. Oh, all right, here’s a clue: an undiagnosed mental illness

  • Any advice for aspiring authors?

 Enjoy the process! Just keep writing and learning and accepting feedback; the rest will follow.

  • Final words?

 I hope you all love I Always Cry at Weddings!

 

 

 

 

 

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